Jamaica cherry scientifically known as Muntingia calabura is a fast-growing small evergreen belong to genus Muntingia L. (muntingia) of the Elaeocarpaceae (Elaeocarpus family). The plant is native to southern Mexico, Central America, tropical South America, the Greater Antilles, St. Vincent and Trinidad. It is widely cultivated in warm areas of the New World and in India, south-east Asia, Malaya, Indonesia, and the Philippines, in many places so thoroughly naturalized that it is thought by the local people to be native. Few of the popular common names of the plant are Strawberry Tree, Panama berry, Jamaican cherry, Bajelly tree and Singapore cherry, Sabah cherry, Panama Cherry, Jam tree, Cotton Candy berry, Calabura, calabur tree, calabura, capulin, Jamaica cherry, Japanese cherry, ornamental cherry and silk wood.
Jamaica cherry is a fast-growing small evergreen shrub or tree that grows about 25 to 40 ft. (7.5-12 m) in height, with spreading, nearly horizontal branches. The short bole can be up to 8.5 – 20 cm in diameter. The plant is found growing in disturbed lowland tropical forests, abandoned pastures, agricultural lands, forest edges, vacant lots, along roadsides and margins of waterways. The plant thrives in poor soils and it is also acidic and alkaline soils. Trunk is usually short, straight and of good form and supports a wide-spreading crown of long, gently drooping branches. Bark is grey-brown or pale-brown and smooth, on older trees becoming cracked and rough. Branches are horizontal, pendant towards the tip and soft-hairy.
Leaves are evergreen, alternate, lanceolate or oblong, long-pointed at the apex, oblique at the base. They are 2 to 5 in (5-12.5 cm) long, dark-green and minutely hairy on the upper surface, gray- or brown-hairy on the underside and irregularly toothed.
Flower & Fruit
Flowers are about 1.25-2 centimeters in diameter, white, extra-axillary, solitary or in pairs in the leaf axils with 5 green sepals that are reflexed, lanceolate, about 1 centimeter long. 5 white Petals are, obovate, 1 centimeter long, deciduous and spreading with many prominent yellow stamens. Flowers last only one day, the petals falling in the afternoon. Flowers resemble strawberry bloom, hence the common name, Strawberry tree.
The plant flowers and fruits all year round, but the rate of flower and fruit production is not constant throughout the year. In Costa Rica, the flowering peak occurs at the end of the dry season (from April to May), while the fruiting peak occurs at the start of the wet season (from May to June). In Southeastern Brazil, the flowering and fruiting peaks occur from September to December, coinciding also with the end of the dry season and the start of the wet season. In India, one flowering and fruiting peak occurs during monsoon season (July-October), and another peak takes place during winter-summer season (December-May).
Fertilized flowers are followed by berry, rounded, about 1.5 centimeters in diameter, smooth, fleshy, sweet and many seeded. Fruits are green when young, changing to yellow before ripening to bright red with thin skin, fleshy pulp and numerous tiny, round seed. The fruit is edible, sweet, and juicy with very sweet, musky, somewhat fig-like flavor, filled with exceedingly minute, yellowish seeds in the soft pulp, too fine to be noticed in eating.
Health benefits of Jamaica cherry
The appearances of various types of diseases, both infectious and non-infectious, nowadays have become a major global burden. Various pharmaceutical drugs have been developed and prescribed to patients to help cure those diseases. Unfortunately, conventional drugs have also been associated with various unwanted side effects. Listed below are health benefits of Jamaica cherry without any side effects
1. Relieves Pain
If you’re suffering from chronic pain, arthritis, or gout, you might want to include Jamaica cherry fruit in your diet. Although the Jamaica cherries cannot cure the primary condition or disease, they help in managing and reducing pain. The Jamaica cherry plant, especially its leaves, is known for its antinociceptive property that blocks your nerves from sensing pain. Leaves of the Jamaica cherry also consists of antioxidants like vitamin C and flavonoids, which contribute to the pain-blocking function.
2. Reduces blood pressure
High blood pressure is caused by many things in modern society like smoking, salt, diets high in fat, and heredity. When blood vessels constrict due to these things, blood has a harder time moving through the body and puts pressure on your vessels as it does. Therefore, high blood pressure, a dangerous condition that can cause heart attacks and strokes takes place. Jamaica cherry tea consist of large amounts of nitric oxide, a natural chemical which relaxes blood vessels so that blood can flow freely, thus decreasing pressure.
3. Boosts Immunity and Prevents Infections
As discussed previously, Jamaica cherry is an excellent antioxidant. By decreasing the cell damage caused by oxidization, the fruit can boost your immunity, keep diseases at bay, and reduce the duration of illnesses. And accompanied by its antibacterial and anti-fungal properties, Jamaica cherry fruit can also help treat flu, common colds, and other infections. In fact, munching on the fruit and drinking tea made of its leaves are known to work wonders in curing headaches, which usually mark the first stage of a cold.
4. Protect against heart attacks
Another use for the tea leaves is to drink them to help protect against heart attacks. This is because the leaves may contain properties that prevent inflammation, which could possibly lead to myocardial infarction.
5. Treats abdominal cramps
You can boil the flowers of the tree and drink it as a tea. With its antiseptic properties, it works great as a treatment for abdominal cramps.
6. Keeps Your Digestive Tract Healthy
Our fast-paced, unhealthy lifestyle makes us prone to several illnesses, the most common one being stomach or gastric ulcer, which can show symptoms like belching, heartburn, indigestion, nausea, passing excessive amounts of gas, or vomiting. And thanks to its anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial properties, the fruit can help prevent and treat gastric ulcers. By eliminating harmful bacteria, fruit can also reduce your risk of developing other bacterial digestive issues and promote gut health.
7. Relieves Headaches
People who suffer from severe headaches do so because of blood vessel constriction. Jamaica cherry relax blood vessels, so that blood can flow normally again. Eating the fruit and drinking tea made of the leaves works great for getting rid of headaches.
8. Relieves Inflammation
Tea made from the leaves of the Jamaica cherry also has anti-inflammatory properties. This is great for treating inflammation anywhere in the body. It can also help relieve swelling and fevers.
9. Treats gout
Over the years, the consumption of Jamaican cherry has been known to help minimize the pain often related with gout. This is why individuals who have gout have been recommended to consume about 9-12 pieces of the fruit at least three times a day.
10. Powerful anti-bacterial ingredient
Consuming the fruit can help improve an individual’s health to keep out certain diseases and infections. Because of the many anti-bacterial properties it contains, the fruit has been used to treat Staph infections, P. vulgaris, C. Diptheriae, K. Rhizophil, S. Epidemidis, and other bacteria.
11. Prevents Cancer
Although there hasn’t been adequate research on Jamaica cherry leaves’ anticancer properties, certain research suggest that the flavonoids present in Jamaica cherry leaves could prevent the formation of cancerous tumors.
12. Relieves Cramps
The pain blockers also work to relieve abdominal cramps. Tea made from Jamaica cherry leaves constitutes a natural home remedy for stomach cramps.
13. Manages Blood Sugar Levels
Over 8.5% of the global population is affected by high blood sugar levels (hyperglycemia) and diabetes. If you’re diabetic, it’s important that you regulate your diet and consume foods that decrease your blood sugar levels. Jamaica cherry consists of anti-diabetic substances like ascorbic acid, fiber, beta-carotene, riboflavin, thiamine, and niacin that manage your sugar levels and prevent hyperglycemia.
Traditional uses and benefits of Jamaica cherry
- Flowers are said to possess antiseptic properties.
- An infusion of the flowers is valued as an antispasmodic.
- It is taken to relieve headache and the first symptoms of a cold.
- In traditional medicine, its leaves can be used as an antiseptic or antipruritic and to treat abdominal cramps.
- Flowers and barks are used as an antiseptic and to reduce swelling in lower extremities while the leaves, either boiled or steeped in water, are used to reduce gastric ulcer and swelling of prostate gland, and to alleviate headache and cold in Peruvian folklore medicine.
- Infusion of the flowers is used as a tranquilizer and tonic in Colombia.
- Plant is used to treat measles, mouth pimples and stomach ache in Mexico.
- Flowers is also used to treat headache and incipient cold or as tranquilizers, antispasmodics and anti-dyspeptics in Philippines.
- Roots have been used as an emmenogogue in Vietnam and as an abortifacient in Malaysia.
- An infusion of the flowers is taken to relieve headache and the first symptoms of a cold.
- Fruits can be processed into jams.
- Tea can be made from the leaves.
- Fruit can be consumed raw or cooked.
- Sweet juicy flesh, they are very good to eat out of hand and can also be used in jams, tarts, pies etc.
- Bark yields a tough fiber used to make ropes and baskets.
- Wood is a source of paper pulp and is also used as fuel for cooking.
- Pliable bark can be used as rough cordage.
- Tough, silk-like fiber can be obtained from the bark and is used for lashing supports and making rope.
- It is also used for basket making.
- Wood is valued in Brazil as a source of paper pulp.
- Sapwood is yellowish and the heartwood is reddish brown, firm, compact, fine grained, moderately strong, light in weight, durable indoors and easily worked.
- It is useful for interior sheathing, making small boxes, casks and general carpentry.
- Wood is soft and is valued mostly as fuel as it ignites quickly, burns with intense heat and gives off very little smoke.
- It is also used as wood for cooking.
- Wood pulp has potential for the production of cellulose.
- Muntingia is also a suitable shade tree for livestock, and is used as fodder/forage for cattle and goats in the Philippines.
- It is also used in rituals (purification baths and cleansings) in the Afro-Cuban religion.
- In Brazil, the trees are planted along river banks. The fruits falling from the tree attract fish that are then caught.
- The tree used to be planted in southern Florida in order to provide shade for nursery plants.
- Flexible bark has traditional use in Mexican woven craft, chiefly as a material for basketry.